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Posts Tagged ‘Meditation’

Here’s what i did while swimming laps on Wednesday that allowed my mood to continue to lift after my magical visit with my friend (yesterday’s post).  It’s especially fresh, because I did essentially this same thing swimming a couple of hours ago.  I started this day at a mania-depression 8 (definite physical contraction, with significant discouragement and negative self-talk), lifted to a 7 (slightly depressed) during and after a good Overeaters Anonymous meeting, then got to a 6 (balanced – yay!) during and after swimming.  So far this has held.  Since my mood frequently is better in the afternoon and evening, I’m hopeful that I’ll get through the rest of this day in this wonderful state of balance.  And I’m going ecstatic dancing tonight (see page at the top of the blog), which tends – if I’m even close to not depressed – to be a lot of fun.  (If I’m really depressed it can be awful.)

Lap swimming, like ecstatic dancing, is one of my key tools for staying balanced.  I’m a lousy swimmer, have never learned to put my face in the water and do a reasonable crawl and instead do lots of side stroke and back stroke, but still 45 minutes of it is great exercise, leaves me more relaxed – and on a good day can be soothing to my mind.  Oftentimes I will try to count my breaths (1 on the inbreath and again on the outbreath, then 2 – up to 10 and start again) as one way to calm my mind while I’m swimming.  Other times my mind may not get quite this quiet, but I can do some soothingly peaceful thinking about things in my life.  When I’m really depressed, as the last couple of weeks, the contents of my mind may stay pretty gnarly through almost the whole 45 minutes – maybe easing up a little as the time goes along.

No goggles for me - I don't stick my face in the water, which makes me a very clumsy swimmer.

No goggles for me – I don’t stick my face in the water, which makes me a very clumsy swimmer.

All this 12 Step stuff – after just 2 1/2 weeks of exploring it (see my post on August 28) – is mostly still also swimming in my head, but I have just started trying to get my hands around the first three steps.  These last two times swimming, I have been occupying my mind with phrases from these three steps

  1. “We admitted that we were powerless over food – that our lives had become unmanageable.”

    Just thinking the word “admitted” has been soothing to me – I can feel the resistance, the tension, the inner struggle softening as I just acknowledge to myself that I have a serious problem with food.

  2. “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

    “Came to believe”.  I don’t believe in a personal God. I consider myself to be non-theistic, which is very different from atheistic – I don’t oppose the idea of a God.  I actually think that when people use the word God, they are trying to point towards the same reality I do believe in.  I also think of myself as more spiritual than agnostic, which is simply saying “I don’t know what is true.”  I do believe there is something going on deeper than material reality.  I believe that life (I sometimes use a capital L) is in some mysterious way intelligent and benevolent – keeps sending us exactly the experiences we most need for our healing and growth.

    My rational mind sure doesn’t know how to get its hands around all this, but I still believe it’s true – and sometimes even experience it as true.  But most of the time it is not experientially/psychologically/emotionally true for me: I don’t live from this place.  I don’t most of the time emotionally feel supported by Life or any Higher Power.  But I want to – I want to translate this principle from a cognitive belief to a living, breathing experience.  And from just these couple of weeks of sitting in OA meetings where people are making reference to their Higher Power (two meetings in my first twelve days, then four in the last five days!) and having now four support calls with people who come from this orientation, I feel something starting to get loosened up in me.

    I sense the possibility of all this getting more real for me.  So using “Came to believe” as a mantra while I swim has been very powerful for me.  It’s soothing, encouraging – makes me feel like something new and positive may be starting to stir within me.  I even feel like I might be on the verge of a kind of conversion – not to a personal God, but to a more personal, supportive relationship with Life, whatever that is.

    “Could restore us to sanity.”  That “admitted” word from the first step has me really acknowledging not only that I am powerless over food, and that my eating life has become unmanageable – but I’m looking at a whole variety of ways that my life is pretty crazy, many of which relate directly to bipolar disorder.  At the heart of all this is the crazy illusion that I am a separate self in an uncaring universe.  The idea that I could be restored to sanity feels really good.

There’s more that I want to share about the good stuff happening while I’m swimming, but that’s already a pretty hefty post for today.  Let’s put up the rest of it tomorrow.

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When I am depressed, it is almost impossible for me to enjoy music.  Music that I have otherwise grooved to just irritates me.  If I try to listen to music while I’m exercising, I turn it off.  When I am even a little bit up, I love music – it  takes me to some wonderful places.  In my recent long spell of depression, I mostly lost track of music – now, praise God, I’m starting to get it back.

About ten years ago, I was hospitalized in the same state hospital twice in a month.  The first time, I came in suicidally depressed, then within my first day there flipped over into being pretty manic.  There was a terrific young woman staff member who rotated among the units doing I don’t know what she called it: “exercise therapy”? “music therapy”?  She would come on our unit maybe every day, using just a cheap boombox, and would play very upbeat music while she had us up on our feet following her in some series of aerobics.

Well, I pretended to do her exercises, but I mostly just danced.  I had a ball.  i was totally all over the rhythm, owned the beat.  I pretended i was dancing in some wonderful, magical night club – not a dingy and oppressive mental hospital.  I loved the (mostly not so special) music over this less than mediocre sound system.  I do think she was genuinely terrific – upbeat, supportive, charming.  But then I may have been exaggerating that, too.

They let me out of that place in just a few days – I was no longer depressed and they don’t keep you there if you’re not dangerous to yourself or others.  I was back again in just two weeks – the shortest time ever between two hospitalizations, but I hadn’t stayed long enough the first time to really do much good, and had left seriously manic.  This time my suicidal depression didn’t lift for a couple of weeks.  And I hated that exercise class.  I couldn’t find the beat.  My body would not move.  It was all painful.

I’ve been doing a meditation called Modern Day Meditation, which is all done to music and they encourage you to get up and move if that is what is wanting to be expressed through you.  They also encourage you to do this at home, and when you are having a hard time to try at least to let yourself to go with one song: to dance hard, cry, shake, scream, whatever – just to get the energy moving.

One day a few weeks ago, when I was really bottomed out, I went up to my room, played some of my favorite Spotify music, and did most of these things.  I had a very hard time getting into it – at first most of it felt like hard work.  The music just didn’t work for me.  I several times changed what I was listening to, some of my favorite music just grated on me.  But little by little, over the course of about 40 minutes,  I did get some release.  Then I went out on my front porch and wrote for about an hour and ended up feeling pretty good.

So I know it can work.  And I believe there must be music out there which is soothing when I’m depressed – I just haven’t found it.  Know some?  Put it in a comment where we can all see it.

For the last two weeks, I have again been mostly depressed, and I have let go of the music that three weeks ago – through the magic of Spotify – I was happily discovering.  This morning, a couple of days into being at about a 5 (slightly expanded) on my manic-depression scale, while walking the dog I discovered Ani DiFranco (not dance music, but warm and rich and human and poetic) on Spotify – and life is good.

My current Ani DiFranco fix

My current Ani DiFranco fix

Knuckle Down cover - doesn't she ever look full of life!?

Knuckle Down cover – doesn’t she ever look full of life!?

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